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Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) together with other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from East Africa; Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Natural Justice-Kenya and Center for Strategic Litigation Limited instituted a public interest case  at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) against the Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda, the Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Secretary General of the East African Community for authorising the operation of the EACOP without fulfilment of the required  procedures in construction of transboundary project like EACOP.

The case followed the signing of the host and inter government agreements to construct the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) with Total Exploration and Production Limited (Total E & P) as the main developer of the pipeline between the governments of Uganda and Tanzania in September 2020. The construction of the pipeline is yet to commence and it is intended to transport crude oil from an inlet flange at the Kabaale pumping station in Hoima District in Uganda to an export flange at a proposed marine storage terminal at Chongoleani in Tanga District, at the East African coast of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The case is intended to prevent several human rights violations to project affect persons, the future environmental degradation and climate change. According to Oxfam’s human rights impact assessment of the EACOP, the project poses different environmental and human rights risks to the communities located along the proposed pipeline corridor in Uganda and Tanzania. These include among others; violating the right to livelihood with thousands of people to be evicted in the process therefore leading to food insecurity in communities; the pipeline is estimated to cover around 1440 kilometres (900 miles) which means that a significant amount of land is needed to make way for the pipeline and its related infrastructure. Around 14,000 households will lose land in Uganda and Tanzania. The land acquisition process has been marked with confusion as a result of insufficient information availed to the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) about the timelines and valuation rates used in terms of compensation. Since 2018, community members have been stopped without any compensation from using their land for perennial crops like coffee yet this is a major source of livelihood for communities along the pipeline.

There is no clear mitigation measures to the threat of oil spills, water shortage, deforestation and many other impacts that could affect the people living around the pipeline. A great part of the pipeline passes close to Lake Victoria as it crosses into Tanzania and this pauses a great risk to the East African region as Lake Victoria is a critical water source for millions of people in East Africa. Despite all these environmental challenges, the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) downplays the impact the pipeline could have on the environment and provides an inadequate assessment. Communities have not adequately participated in the development of the ESIA and have not been kept in the loop about the on-going activities as regards the pipeline construction.

CEFROHT and other CSOs argue that the signing of these agreements was a violation of the East African Community Treaty and the protocols made under this treaty. CEFROHT and other CSOs argue that; Total Exploration and Production Limited (Total E & P) was not issued with a certificate of approval of its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment by the National Environmental Management Authority in Uganda prior to signing of the agreements, the agreements were signed without the submission of the ESIA to the Secretary General of the East African Community as required for a project that will have an environmental impact on lake Victoria, the two governments did not carry out a Climate Change Impact Assessment prior to the signing of the agreements despite having knowledge that the EACOP will have a great impact on climate change in the East African region. Experts have indicated that the EACOP is likely to have 34 million tons of Carbon dioxide emissions every year. This is contrary to Uganda’s target to reduce greenhouse emissions by 22% in 2030. The construction of the EACOP would increase Uganda’s greenhouse emissions by more than 150%.

The East African Court of Justice is in the process of hearing the case as  a matter of public interest and aimed to protect and preserve the rule of law in East Africa under the treaty and the vulnerable East Africans’ rights to livelihood, food, income, health, water security and promote climate justice in the East African Region.